Monday, 30 May 2011

If I never eat another Greek salad...

I can't quite believe it's been over a week since we left for Greece. Since then we've come back from Greece, had house guests including a chubby delightful eight month old, I've survived four days of work and two dentist appointments and we've enjoyed a long weekend in spite of the weather.

the hotel against the backdrop of Mt Olympus.
Greece was amazing. Beautiful, rundown, charming and not short on Greek salad. Getting to Leptokaria from Thessaloniki was something of an adventure (as opposed to say hmm, a drama...) with poor to no road signage, a pesky ring road, poor to no GPS reception and a serious lack of u-turn availabilities which meant 40km on the right road in the wrong direction. Thankfully this was Thursday and the wedding wasn't until Saturday or we might have been in strife.

The hotel was an oasis at the base of Mount Olympus. All swimming pools and outdoor furniture with snow covered mountains in the background and palm trees and the calm Aegean Sea out the front. It really was beautiful. Because we'd left the house at 3am that morning we opted for a quiet evening and a quiet Friday before Cleo's parents hosted an intimate dinner for 100 at a taverna in the new village. The old village, which is further up the mountain, is so old it didn't get electricity until the 1980s, the new village beat them to it by about 20 years but there was still plenty of charm and a view to die for. So much food, lots of wine and a handful of new friends by the end of the night.

the view from our seats at dinner...
Saturday the sun came out along with the party dresses but an altercation with a cranky Greek bus driver meant that none of the girls got to partake in the traditions of helping the bride get dressed while drinking champagne and stuffing money into her shoes. Instead we had to mill about until the boys were ready and the bus driver was obliging and then went straight to the old village to wait for Cleo's arrival with Alex. Though when I say straight I should say up, around, up some more, around, around, up, up, up. The old village is also the high village and I'm sure that's a contributing factor when considering how untouched, beautiful and completely picturesque it is. I'm loathe to say it looks like a film set, but with the cobble stone pathways, vine covered tavernas, old church and shady square that's exactly what it reminded us all of.

The old village.

As is tradition, Cleo arrived at the church escorted by all the members of her family as well as a band of musicians and she met Alex at the front door before they walked in together with everyone straggling in behind them. The service was in ancient Greek so no-one except the priest really had any clue what was going on - though he too struggled at times to remember the very tricky "Alexander" - so much so he appeared to have it written on his hand...

Everyone stands about while the service is going on and all the locals fill in and chat idly at the back throughout the proceedings. There was another wedding on in the new village the same day and apparently there would have been twice as many guests otherwise. We got a glimpse of the other wedding on our way back down to the hotel afterwards - well, more than a glimpse. A full on front view as our enormous double decker coach blocked the bride's procession and she, the musicians, her family and friends all had to squeeze past us to get on with their own proceedings. I don't speak Greek but I know a cranky bride when I see one....

The reception back at the hotel kicked off with some serious Greek dancing - I don't think our poor groom, who happens to be German, not Greek, could quite relax until that was out of the way, understandably, and by the time the Greek band got off the stage we were all ready for a bit of top 40/classic rock with optional air guitar action. There's only so much clarinet I can handle on a per annum basis and I've maxed this years quota now and the next.

After complimentary ouzo shots (never a good idea at the best of times) and one two many Guns 'n' Roses medleys I dragged LB off the dance floor around 1am and home to bed, knowing, if he didn't at the time, that I was doing him the world's biggest favour.

He returned the favour the next day by taking us to Leptokaria Beach for lunch and a somewhat ironic encounter with a dodgy handbag seller offering nasty Louis Vuitton knock-offs (oh to take one of those to my next meeting at New Bond St....) and a trip to the castle near the new village for some token culture and history. Token it turned out to be because the castle shut at 3pm and we arrived spectacularly at 2.45 and the gates were already locked. We consoled ourselves with a walk around the castle, along a wild flower strewn wobbly path that bear-hugged the castle and took in the spectacular views. It was just lovely. And good to feel like we'd done more than simply drink ouzo, eat feta and dance to appalling clarinet music.

That night we met Cleo, Alex and some of their friends at one of the beach bars nearby for a final mojito, where the techno music was at complete odds with the empty-but-for-us bar, before heading to bed and then back to London the next morning. Thankfully the trip back to the airport was completely uneventful with no need for u-turns or swear words.

Back to London, the next day we were joined by LB's sister, brother-in-law and their chubby, very adorable 8 month old son Archie. It was so lovely having them with us and seeing how much Archie had grown since Christmas. It's lucky I'm not clucky though or the sight of LB dragging the pillow over his head when Archie howled at 4.21am would have given me plenty to mull over. Thankfully at that moment I had other things to mull over, chiefly the toothache I brought back with me from Greece. I hate tooth-related pain, I hate dentists, I hate anyone coming anywhere near me with instruments that inevitably bring teeth and pain into the one conversation. So it's not surprising I spent the first four days just hoping it would go away. Sadly my cunning plan didn't work and so now I'm booked in for root canal this Friday and am only moderately calmed by the fact that I will be medically calmed while the whole bloody thing is going on.

This weekend has been a long weekend - the last for a while here but thankfully there are plenty of impending visits from friends and family in the coming months to distract from the lack of holidays. The website launches in just over a week so work is going to be I-N-S-A-N-E between now and then so I might just have to ask for some additional sedatives to manage the stress of it all. One day at a time. And some yoga perhaps.

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